Forage news, frostbite, and fescue foot

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the American Forage and Grassland Council Annual Conference with some of our other Ohio Extension Educators. It was a wonderful experience to learn from others and share what we have learned with forage producers and professionals across the country.

Two sessions that I sat in on for the benefit of my local producers were “Managing Clovers in the 21stCentury” and “Understanding and Mitigating Fescue Toxicosis.”

The clover session included a presentation by Dow Agrosciences about treating broadleaf weeds in clover stands and progress they have made toward an herbicide that works as well as their leading pasture herbicide, without killing white clover. It will still be a couple years before the product is released for use, but it is coming.

In the fescue toxicosis session, we were reminded to watch for fescue foot in winter. The decreased circulation that results from the constricted blood vessels in the animal makes them increasingly susceptible to frostbite. Frostbite can easily go unnoticed in snowy and cold situations and could even lead to gangrene. If this occurs, the appendage (foot or tail) will be lost and the animal will need to be culled. This is usually a problem that starts in summer and carries into winter. In most cases, the concentration of the ergot alkaloids that cause these symptoms is low in dried mixed hay. Even so, this is a condition to watch for.

The bitter cold we have experienced in combination with great volumes of snow increases the chances for animals to have frostbite damage. While things begin to thaw, be sure to check the feet and tails of your livestock for signs of frostbite and if you do see it, contact your vet ASAP. I hope that no one encounters a fescue foot turned frostbite injury. If you do, I would be interested in hearing about it. There are ways to mitigate the impacts of fescue endophyte in your herd or flock in all seasons.

There is still a lot of winter left. I hope Mother Nature will be kind.

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